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Calpine responds to community concerns

By TRAVIS WEIK

tweik@thecouriertimes.com

The Henry County Planning Commission will have a special meeting at 5 p.m. Tuesday, July 23 at Bundy Auditorium to consider a permit for the Big Blue River Wind Farm.

The larger location was selected to accommodate an expected large audience due to the number of Henry County residents who don’t want to see industrial wind turbines go up anywhere nearby.

The planning commission will hear arguments for and against a commission approved use (CAU) application that evening from Calpine Corporation, the parent company for Big Blue River Wind Farm LLC.

Calpine Development Director Derek Rieman said the company changed its plans for the Big Blue Wind Farm to meet guidelines Henry County leaders put into place last year with the new wind energy conversion system (WECS) ordinance.

“In 2018, Henry County adopted a new WECS ordinance, which took into account a great deal of public input over the course of almost two years,” Rieman said. “The updated WECS ordinance contains much more restrictive guidelines, including increased setbacks from property boundaries, sound standards and turbine height restrictions.”

Rieman said Calpine Corporation, in order to comply with these new standards, reduced the number of proposed wind turbines by over half from 80-100 at the onset of the project to the 38 wind turbines proposed in the current application.

“Additionally, we reconfigured the proposed project area so that it would be located entirely south of US Highway 36,” he said. “The application for the Big Blue River Wind Farm that was recently filed is intended to fully comply with the county’s new WECS ordinance.”

The application includes health studies, noise studies and a property market value study related to the wind turbines.

The application also includes an economic impact study. According to that memo, the Big Blue River Wind Farm is projected to create 324 jobs and $17.6 million of income statewide.

Local taxing units – including the Henry County government, schools and libraries – are estimated to gain more than $887,000 in property tax revenue in year 1, $1.3 million in tax revenue in year 2, and $832,000 each year after that.

All the documents filed as part of the CAU application can be found online at henryco.net/PlanningCommBigBlueRiver.aspx

Rieman said Calpine strives to be a good neighbor and corporate citizen “by building collaborative relationships with local communities that enable us to promote economic prosperity and build safe, environmentally responsible energy projects.”

He said the company will continue to work with local officials to finalize development and to construct the project in a responsible manner.

“We look forward to providing local benefits to Henry County – through millions of dollars of additional tax revenue, new jobs, and clean energy – for decades to come,” Rieman said.

The planning commission meeting at 5 p.m. July 23 is open to the public.

Editor's Note: A previous version of the story had the incorrect starting time for the CAU meeting.